How to talk to a programmer (1 Viewer)

ajetrumpet

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To those reading this, I am not writing all of this to make fun of you or anyone else, but rather to boost the efficiency, working environment, community involvement, morale, and integrity of this forum.


This post is primarily for beginners, new forum posters, novice coders, and the like. Most people that are not programmers don't really know how to talk to them (us), and as a result, fire burns and fevers rise. In my opinion, if you want to make good use of your time when on this forum, learn how to talk to programmers efficiently and effectively.

If you're asking a question: PLEASE, explain it. I am not begging you to, nor do I care if you do (because I won't answer the question if I see it). Some programmers understand this delimma, but quite frankly some are very poor at recognizing it. The delimma is the poster's knowledge of the subject. In general: say in your post if you know what you're doing or not. That's way more helpful than saying something like: I have programmed Access before but have never worked with crosstab queries. That's great but it is not useful at all because the bottom line is that you don't know what you're doing.

In my experience working with, talking to, and even managing a couple of programmers, they typically are very intelligent, but many of them could use some verbal communication skill improvements. I'm not knocking programmers or the profession (or the art), as I'm sure being molded into a programmer over time has different effects on everyone. Below are some things you might want say in your post for some common situations I've seen around here. I am simply guessing that the "typical" programmer will appreciate any or all of these things you do when you communicate with them:


IF YOU WANT IT TO DO SOMETHING, BUT DON'T KNOW HOW TO PROGRAM IT...
*Tell us flat out...."I don't know how to do this"

*Respect the fact that time given to you is free and always ask a question that shows you want to learn how to do it. Something like: "Where do I start?", or "What would be my first step?"

*ASK FOR ADVICE on how to approach your project. BUT...don't detail us to death. In other words, ask it the same way you would ask Neil Armstrong this question: How did you feel when you got to walk on the moon? If he's like most, he'll answer your question than tell all the details of that extraordinary day. Hence, you'll get more information than you bargained for. Programmers love to pass knowledge on, especially stuff that WORKS and has been successful. At least I do!


IF SOMETHING IS NOT WORKING IN YOUR DATABASE...
*Keep in mind folks, that Access is one of the most complicated programs inside MS Office. It uses thousands of files to function. That being said, programmers REALLY appreciate it if you KNOW what is wrong before you ask. That way you don't write anything that cries out to us as "I'm just guessing".

*If you don't know what is wrong, tell us exactly what doesn't work. NOTHING ELSE. Just the piece that is not functioning. If a "knowledgeable" programmer replies to your post, he/she will most likely know where all of the possible bugs could be, and will tell you where to look for them. Example Question: "My subform doesn't show any records when it's recordsource table has 5 in it. That is a start. If you CAN, after you say that, give us any information that you KNOW is related to the functioning of the subform. If you simply have no clue why it doesn't work, you will only dig yourself a deeper hole by saying anything else. At this point, you will get the most out of your conversation with someone who answers if you just say, "I don't know where to go from here". The worst possible thing you can do if you're in this boat is say something like "I tried to do...to fix it", or "I know if I do....it will work". There's nothing wrong with saying stuff like that, but believe me, it sounds selfish, bullish, and over the top. People are not receptive to that.

*In my opinion, your post should ALWAYS include what you want to have happen in the end. Example: I want the textbox to show the current user of the database. Another Example: I want the query to return the 1st 10 records only.


IF YOU WANT HELP WRITING CODE...

*Personally, I completely turn off my hearing aid if someone talks to me directly about the code that they wrote and what they got it to do. Guess what!? I care, but you are overloading me with information that I can't possibly retain. So please keep it to yourself and enjoy the fact that you made something work that can't be easily explained. ;) This goes for posts too. Most people have a specialty when it comes to code writing, be it client side, server side, or just plain proprietary languages like VBA. If you want to ask specific questions about code, explicit syntax, or language structuring, you will probably get the best results by writing it as professionally as you can. What you're looking for is someone to answer who knows exactly what you're talking about. For example, you say It tells me "Block If without End If", and you post this:
PHP:
if myvalue = "foo" then
   for each c in me.controls
      if typeof c is label then
         debug.print c.caption
      end if
end if
someone would popup right away and say you forgot to close your FOR() loop.

*If you simply want us to give you source code for free, make it reasonable. If you don't know what is reasonable, LEARN IT. Learn the difference between ADVICE and PROJECTS. Asking for too much free knowledge is the worst way to try and make friends in this world. Most professional programmers are way beyond what you're asking for, so they don't mind giving you SOME code for free, because most of it that they are willing to give out has no market value anymore for them (e.g. - they can't make money writing it for someone else. either that, or it's not worth their time). Example - here's some code I am willing to give for free:
Code:
With Application.FileDialog(msoFileDialogFilePicker)

dim varitem

         With .Filters
           .Clear
           .Add "All Files", "*.*"
         End With

             .AllowMultiSelect = false
             .InitialFileName = "c:\"
             .InitialView = msoFileDialogViewDetails

                    If .Show Then

                      For Each varitem In .SelectedItems
                           msgbox "You selected a file with a " & _
                                      right(varitem, 4) & " file extension."
                      next varitem
                      

                    End If
                    
End With
an extension of this code example I would not give for free would be one that allows multiple selections of files, consolidates them into one datasheet and imports it into Access for analysis, all dynamically through VBA procedures and object library references. In my eyes, that is a small project.

*If you want helping finding a BUG, be respectful or our time by exhausting all the resources Access gives you before you post your code and say "HELP!" Remember too that programming is a god-awful thankless job by nature, so if you can make a programmer feel good about him/herself, you'll get more help (and words) than you bargained for (which is what you generally want).

*I think I speak for many programmers when I say that if you ask a question that says something like this: "I want my program to do A, B, and C. I would appreciate it if someone could provide the code to do so". It's a light tempered question for sure, but regardless, you won't get an answer, at least from me. And here's why:
1) You have shown absolutely no interest in what you're doing.
2) I suspect you're trying to get source code for free and then sell it. If you want my opinion, that's immoral. Moreover, you're not fooling anyone that cares.
3) You're not trying
4) You're not participating in sharing the information we all seek so we can grow and be better.


WANT TO GAIN RESPECT AND RECOGNITION? TRY THIS...

If possible, know what you're talking about. It makes you look good. :) Also, try not to mistakenly describe objects when you talk about your issue: My form's control source is "SELECT...etc, etc..." (forms don't have this property).

*I personally believe this forum is great because of the people that hang out here. There are plenty of knowledgeable people here, and lucky for you they are experts in SOMETHING specifically, but also know a little about a lot of other things. As I said before, what you want here is someone who tells you "DO A, B, C to fix your problem". That rarely happens, and most of the time it is because information is lacking to fully analyze the problem, formulate a solution, and then explain it to someone who doesn't initially understand it. Programmers REALLY like to have all the information needed to come up with as many solutions as possible that will work. In reality, it is YOUR responsibility to give that to us if you want the right answer to your problem. I am one for example, that does understand that some people who post here simply have no clue what they're doing, nor do they know what to do with a solution if one is given to them. If you're posting for a good reason and you truly need an answer from us, and you have ZERO experience related to the subject matter at hand, please say so right away. If someone does answer your question, it will save them loads of time by not having to wonder if you "know that already". For me, I have no problem answering these kind of questions. The point at which I become frustrated, and probably unsubscribe from your thread, is when I find out that you "knew that already" or "tried that already" when I spent time explaining it or typing it (whatever it is). If there is anything I dislike (and I like a lot of things in this world), it is wasteful use of time. So...in short, if you know what information we need to solve the problem, please give it to us. Don't guess. If you don't know what info we need to solve it, just say so and don't worry. We probably know what we need even before you say it. Here are some good examples of questions and the information we would need to give you the right answer the FIRST time so you can live happily ever after without much fuss:

Question: When I try to lock a textbox with VBA, it doesn't lock.
We Need: 1) the code you're using, 2) the value of the "allow edits" property of the form

Question: Why doesn't my subform show any records?
We Need: 1) subform's source table or SQL that runs it, 2) any initialization code behind it (code that is run when its loading or opening), 3) any links to a parent form it has

Question: I am getting a "type mismatch" error in my procedure...
We Need: 1) the line of code that Access says is bad, 2) what words in the code the debugger is highlighting, 3) any variable names and their data types that are inside the error-ridden code

Question: It tells me "No Current Record"
We Need: 1) what you're trying to do at that particular moment, 2) highlighted code if the debugger can be run to find it, 3) what you did right before you got the error, and any code that was run


MY THOUGHTS ON BEING A GREAT PROGRAMMER

I am nowhere near "great", but I have picked up on things that have taught me a great deal about the art of programming. Weather you're serious or not, if you are interested at all in learning anything about how programming works, be it software structuring, OS structure, script writing, or software engineering, try to post questions that will someday give others a chance to gain at least 1 more byte of knowledge. :) People who answer your questions will have more respect for you too!
 

Atomic Shrimp

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+1

I would add:
Don't get shirty and defensive when we ask for details of your existing application/code/data
or if we ask for an explanation of what you're trying to do in a real-world context.

We're not the slightest bit interested in stealing your idea, or data - it's just impossible to help you unless you properly explain what it is you're trying to do.
 

The_Doc_Man

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I would add

Be prepared to receive a suggested reading list if you have a really complex question.

We frequently recognize that your problem can be solved directly by reading some part of the help files or an online resource such as Wikipedia or a perhaps a simple Web Search for a specific keyword. We could tell you the full answer, and sometimes we do. But if we are trying to maximize our effect, we will point you somewhere that we know contains the answers you need. That way, we can spread ourselves across more questions. A specific reading list will give you something to look at. If you read everything on our list and still are stuck, at least when you come back, you will know the language of the particular programming issue better and can re-phrase the question with more effect.
 

Kryst51

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The worst possible thing you can do if you're in this boat is say something like "I tried to do...to fix it",

I thought it was good to tell what you did. I read "How to ask Questions the smart way" and it seems to suggest, at least in the examples towards the end of the article, that telling what you've tried is useful so that you don't get asked to take those steps again. Am I wrong or not understanding what it means?
 

Banana

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Not that I would have any insider insight to ajetrumpet's mind, but my best guess is because some posters bury the description of problem in a pile of "I did..", "I tried.." and thus make it harder to figure out what exactly is the problem.

I do think it's valuable to state what you've already done, but it should be presented in a way that it's easy to read the problem separately from what you did. That said, I have to disagree that it'd be selfish or bullish. A indication of poor writing, probably, but not quite same thing, IMO.
 

Kryst51

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That makes a lot of sense. Thanks!
 

ajetrumpet

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I thought it was good to tell what you did. I read "How to ask Questions the smart way" and it seems to suggest, at least in the examples towards the end of the article, that telling what you've tried is useful so that you don't get asked to take those steps again. Am I wrong or not understanding what it means?

i read that article too Krystal, and there is a difference between what I said and what the other article by the ERIC guy said. The difference is the the risk that time will be wasted. the reason I saw (for newbies) at last to NOT tell us what they already did, because more often than not, what they did or tried to do has no relevance to actually solution that solves the problem. Again, no problem, but personally I would rather let us handle it since you came to us for help in the first place., ;)
 

Kryst51

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i read that article too Krystal, and there is a difference between what I said and what the other article by the ERIC guy said. The difference is the the risk that time will be wasted. the reason I saw (for newbies) at last to NOT tell us what they already did, because more often than not, what they did or tried to do has no relevance to actually solution that solves the problem. Again, no problem, but personally I would rather let us handle it since you came to us for help in the first place., ;)

OK, I understand you better. Although I can hardly type correctly as I am tired. It took 4 tries to type the word "better" correctly. Thankyou for the work you put into this sticky. :)
 

Brianwarnock

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OK, I understand you better. Although I can hardly type correctly as I am tired. It took 4 tries to type the word "better" correctly. Thankyou for the work you put into this sticky. :)

Perhaps Adam could learn from this, sloppy spelling or use of English can suggest sloppy work, Weather(whether?) he will check back and correct things I don't know but at last (least?) he should realise none of us are perfect, especially newbies struggling to make themselves understood.

Brian
 

ajetrumpet

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Perhaps Adam could learn from this, sloppy spelling or use of English can suggest sloppy work, Weather(whether?) he will check back and correct things I don't know but at last (least?) he should realise none of us are perfect, especially newbies struggling to make themselves understood.

Brian

good points. and yes, spelling is at the bottom of my list. I figured, since I am am a good speller anyway, it can go by the wayside when i'm giving my effort for free....(as long as its readable...).

(old people....geez...:rolleyes:)
 

genesis

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I think it is still upon the individual who will reply if he wanted or not to reply regardless of what rules to be follow to get a reply or assistance.

You just cannot force them to answers.

There are many post headers that are still not following the convention set on this post but still assistance have been rendered.

I think this post is useless. Because this is not enforceable.

What posters here are after for the information that they can get from those who are knowledgeable. Ofcourse, it is better if the requester shows some respect of asking.

Actually, some other posters here have not much of respect in their post introduction but still replies and assistance were given.

So I just dont get it.

If I am knowledgeable to assist and willing to waste some time here, I might as well answer questions rather than putting up some rules and regulations around me before you can get my assistance.
 

MStef

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I agree with this. I have got an experience that most of the users don't know what they want. He want something, but they don't know to say what they want.
 

Rabbie

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I think it is still upon the individual who will reply if he wanted or not to reply regardless of what rules to be follow to get a reply or assistance.

You just cannot force them to answers.
So anything that increases the chances of a reply must be good
There are many post headers that are still not following the convention set on this post but still assistance have been rendered.

I think this post is useless. Because this is not enforceable.
The post does have some good suggestions so it should not be ignored if you want a reply.
What posters here are after for the information that they can get from those who are knowledgeable. Ofcourse, it is better if the requester shows some respect of asking.

Actually, some other posters here have not much of respect in their post introduction but still replies and assistance were given.

So I just dont get it.
Seems to be a pretty clear message to me.
If I am knowledgeable to assist and willing to waste some time here, I might as well answer questions rather than putting up some rules and regulations around me before you can get my assistance.
Sometimes there are a several questions to be answered and guess which ones I will try to answer first. Those where the problem is clearly described or those where it takes several minutes to work out what the the questioner actually is asking
 

ColinEssex

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good points. and yes, spelling is at the bottom of my list.

So is grammar by the looks of things. The word "and" should have a capital "A" as it is after a full stop.

Also, you should always try and avoid using the word "and" after a full stop, much better to use a comma instead of the full stop as the word "and" is a conjunctive linking the new statement to the previous one, but the full stop is acting like a barrier.

Being as you are from Iowa, I appreciate English is not your first language, so all in all, you're doing reasonably well.

Col
 

dan-cat

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In general: say in your post if you know what you're doing or not. That's way more helpful than saying something like: I have programmed Access before but have never worked with crosstab queries. That's great but it is not useful at all because the bottom line is that you don't know what you're doing.

Totally disagree.

Nothing wrong in trying to expose your current level of knowledge in the question.
It helps the responder to gauge at what level they should describe possible solutions so as to be better understood. It is obvious that a student's previous experience can be used to aid further learning.

To be honest, I found the O.P. to be a bit convoluted which is what a request for help should not be.
 

Boro

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O, I have not this problem because I am projectant, system analist, organiser of job
and programmer. So, one man band resolved situation.
 

genesis

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Rabbie, that portion that you stated:

"Sometimes there are a several questions to be answered and guess which ones I will try to answer first. Those where the problem is clearly described or those where it takes several minutes to work out what the the questioner actually is asking"

This is where I dont get it. Like this post of mine,

http://www.access-programmers.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=182513

was it not clear? was it too overload with information at the first post? did I not asked respectfully or with proper manner? did I not say what I want to achieve? didnt I tried to help myself in the process?

that is why i think this guideline is not enforceable nor strictly working. that as I have said, it still depends upon the individual whether he or she wanted to help.

What I think is:

If you are here in this forum, you simply want to share your knowledge or you simple want to ask for help.

You dont bother going into registering yourself in this forum just to be a member. People who needs help, do bother registering themselves because they want to get knowledge or they want to get help, assistance and the like regardless if they spend their money, time and effort.

And those people who are knowledgeable who wants to share their knowledge, do bother themselves to register and waste their money, time and effort just to help those who need help. And this is for free. No one forced them to give help. I think if you are here to help for a fee because that code or that project is very valuable to obtain then it's just fine, just say so, so that if it can be afforded or not, the conversation will continue or not.

So, if you dont want to give help or get help, why bother yourself registering, logging-in in this forum or probably other forums too, wasting money, effort and time.

Yes, there may be other who register for the purpose of spamming or advertising or the likes but atleast they have their clear purpose and that is to spam or advertise, or sell.

You see, people in this forum waste their money in an internet cafe especially if they dont have their own computer and internet connection, they waste time, especially if they are waiting for answer for almost one day even if they have to do other things too, they waste their effort especially if they waste their time without getting what they need.

I think if someone has a question and you simple dont want to answer or you dont have an answer for it, maybe a concerned poster maybe atleast reply that " Sorry I cannot answer your question". I really appreciate Ruralguy in the other forum because if he doesnt know the answer, he will still reply and say sorry, I dont have answer for your problem. Thats great, atleast I wont waste more of my money,time and effort.
 
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